article

Stress associated with an increased risk of getting Covid-19, study finds

Wednesday, 12 January 2022
A new study has found that people who experienced increased stress, anxiety and depression at the start of the pandemic, were at greater risk of getting Covid-19.

The research, published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found that greater psychological distress during the early phase of the pandemic was significantly associated with participants later reporting SARS-CoV-2 infection, a greater number of symptoms and also more severe symptoms.

Professor Kavita Vedhara in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, led the study, along with colleagues from King’s College London and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Previous research has shown that psychological factors such as stress and social support are associated with increased susceptibility to viral respiratory illnesses and more severe symptoms.

During the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a well-documented deterioration in psychological wellbeing and increased social isolation. The purpose of this study was to find out whether people who experienced these difficulties during the pandemic were more at risk of contracting and/or experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.

The team of experts conducted an observational study of nearly 1,100 adults, who completed surveys during April 2020 and self-reported incidence of Covid-19 infection and symptom experience across the pandemic through to December 2020.

Regression models were used to explore these relationships, taking into account demographic and occupational factors.

The results showed that Covid-19 infection and symptoms were more common among those experiencing elevated psychological distress.

Professor Kavita Vedhara

Professor Vedhara said: “The significance of the work is in that it turns the debate regarding the mental health aspects of the pandemic on its head. Our data show that increased stress, anxiety and depression are not only consequences of living with the pandemic, but may also be factors that increase our risk of getting SARS-CoV-2 too."

"Further work is now needed to determine whether and how public health policy should change to accommodate the fact that the most distressed people in our communities appear to be at greatest risk of Covid-19 infection.”
Professor Kavita Vedhara

Professor Trudie Chalder, Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy from King’s College London said: “Previous work has shown a clear relationship between distress and the development of viral infections indicating a vulnerability. Our study found that distress was associated with self-reported Covid-19 infection and the next step is to investigate whether this association is found in those with confirmed infection.“

The full study can be found here and will be among evidence reviewed at the Association for Psychological Science’s free public meeting: ‘Psychology Meets Biology in COVID-19: What We Know and Why It Matters for Public Health’.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Kavita Vedhara  in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham at Kavita.Vedhara@nottingham.ac.uk

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Email: charlotte.anscombe@nottingham.ac.uk
Phone: 0115 748 4417
Location:

Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Quicklink fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at Jubilee campus. For further information please contact a member of the Press Office on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2023, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide Sports University of the Year twice in three years, most recently in 2021. We are ranked seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk